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Boston Corbett: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1865, Boston Corbett shot John Wilkes Booth making him a hero to some and a maniac to others. This guide provides access to materials related to “Boston Corbett” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"He commanded that the 'Sons of Belial,' the court and jury who were trying him, should disperse." March 20, 1920. Dearborn Independent (Dearborn, MI), Image 15. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Boston Corbett was nothing more than another Union soldier until April 26, 1865 when he avenged President Lincoln’s death by shooting and fatally injuring John Wilkes Booth. After that fateful night, Corbett was hailed as a hero by some, and viewed as an insubordinate maniac by others. Throughout the rest of his life, he was paranoid that Booth’s friends or followers would come for him, causing him to eventually lose his mind and end up in an insane asylum in Kansas, only to escape a few months later. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

April 26, 1865 Boston Corbett shoots John Wilkes Booth, ending the manhunt for Lincoln’s killer.
August 29, 1865 Corbett testifies in the Wirz trial for cruelties in Andersonville prison, his testimony is dismissed.
November 26, 1885 Corbett arrested for threatening his neighbor; while on the stand at trial he pulls out two revolvers and clears the court room.
January 12, 1887 Corbett unanimously elected doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives.
February 15, 1887 Corbett takes out two revolvers and a sword while Kansas house is in session, holds the speaker’s box, and then adjourns the session.
October 1, 1887 Corbett declared insane and taken to Kansas asylum
May 26, 1888 Corbett escapes insane asylum, some reports say he is headed to Mexico.
September 17, 1905 Man claiming to be Boston Corbett is arrested for pension fraud and is sentenced to three years imprisonment.